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About this report

This report is a shorter account of the results of the FAO study, Agriculture: towards 2015/30. It presents the latest FAO assessment of long-term developments in world food, nutrition and agriculture, including the forestry and fisheries sectors. It is the product of an interdisciplinary exercise, involving most of FAO's technical FAO's periodical was published in 1995 (Alexandratos, 1995). Earlier editions were Alexandratos(1988), FAO (1981) and FAO (1970).

The projections were carried out in considerable detail, covering about 140 countries and 32 crop and livestock commodities (see Annex 1). For nearly all the developing countries, the main factors contributing to the growth of agricultural production were identified and analysed separately. Sources of productivity growth, such as higher crop yields and livestock carcass weights, were distinguished from other growth resources, such as the area of cultivated land and the sizes of livestock herds. Special attention was given to land, which was broken down into five classes for rainfed agriculture and a sixth or irrigated agriculture. This level of detail proved both necessary and f advantageous in identifying the main issues likely to emerge for world agriculture over the next 30 years. Specifically, it helped to spot local production and resource constraints, to gauge country-specific requirements for food imports and to assess progress and failure in the fight against hunger and undernourishment. The high degree of detail was also necessary for integrating the expertise of FAO specialists from various disciplines, as the analysis drew heavily on the judgement of in-house experts. Owing to space and other constraints, the results are, however, mainly presented at the aggregate regional and sectoral levels, which can mask diverging developments between individual countries and commodities. Likewise, space considerations militated against the inclusion of references to the numerous sources drawn upon in this report. References have therefore been limited to statistical sources and the sources of figures, tables and maps. These are given on p. 96. A complete list of references is provided in the main technical report.

Another important feature of this report is that its approach is "positive" rather than "normative". This means that its assumptions and projections reflect the most likely future but not necessarily the most desirable one. For example, the report finds that the goal of the 1996 World Food Summit - to halve the number of chronically undernourished people by no later than 2015 - is unlikely to be accomplished, even though this would be highly desirable. Similarly, the report finds that agriculture will probably continue to expand into wetlands and rainforests, even though this is undoubtedly undesirable. In general, the projections presented are therefore not goals of an FAO strategy but rather a basis for action, to cope both with existing problems that are likely to persist and with new ones that may emerge. It should also be stressed that these projections are certainly not trend extrapolations. Instead, they incorporate a multitude of assumptions about the future and often represent significant deviations from past trends.

A long-term assessment of world food, nutrition and agriculture could deal with a great number of issues, the relevance of which depends on the interest in a particular country, region or topic. As a global study, however, this report had to be selective in the issues it addresses. The main focus is on how the world will feed itself in the future and what the need to produce more food means for its natural resource base. The base year for the study is the three-year average for 1997-99 and projections are made for the years 2015 and 2030. The choice of 2015 allows assessment of whether or not the goal of the 1996 World Food Summit - to halve the number of chronically under-nourished people - is likely to be reached. Extending the horizon to 2030creates a sufficiently long period for the analysis of issues pertaining to the world's resource base further degradation of agricultural land, desertification, deforestation, global warming and water scarcity, as well as increasing demographic pressure. Naturally, the degree of uncertainty increases as the time horizon is extended, so the results envisaged for 2030 should be interpreted more cautiously than those for 2015.

The analysis is, inter alia, based on the long-term developments expected by other organizations. The population projections, for instance, reflect the latest assessment (2000 Assessment, Medium Variant) available from the United Nations (UN, 2001), while those for incomes are largely based on the latest projections of gross domestic product (GDP) from the World Bank. Most of the agricultural data are from FAO's database (FAOSTAT), as in July 2001. Because these assumptions critically shape the projected outcomes, it is important to note that they can change significantly, even over the short term. For example, the historical data and the projections for the growth of population and GDP used in the 1995 study have since been revised in many countries, often to a significant extent. World population in the 1995 study, for instance, was projected at 7.2 billion for 2010, whereas the current UN projections peg the figure at 6.8 billion. Similarly, it is now assumed that sub-Saharan Africa's with 915 million in the 1995 study. The GDP projections for sub-Saharan Africa also differ from those assumed in the 1995 study: per capita income growth over the period 1997-99 to 2015 is now projected at 1.8 percent a year, compared with 0.7 percent in the 1995 study (over the period 1988-90 to 2010). Finally, FAO's historical consumption were often drastically revised for the entire time series as more up-to-date information became available.

This report begins by presenting the expected developments in world agricultural demand, production and trade (both in total and by major commodity group), and the implications for food security and undernourishment. It continues with a discussion of the main issues raised by these developments. These include the role of agriculture in rural development, poverty alleviation and overall economic growth, and the effects of globalization and freer trade. The report then discusses production and policy issues in the crop, livestock, forestry and fisheries sectors, including natural resource use and agricultural technology issues. It concludes with an assessment of the environmental implications of agricultural production, including its interactions with climate change.

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